Ukraine is on the frontline of the fight for the values that we in Britain hold dear: democracy, liberty and self-determination. It has therefore been truly inspiring to see 200,000 British households willing to open their doors to Ukrainians—largely women and children—who are fleeing Putin’s barbaric war. Somehow, though, the Home Secretary has managed to turn this inspirational story of British generosity into a bureaucratic nightmare.
The Opposition of course welcome the two visa routes that the Government have opened, but we have grave concerns that the Home Secretary’s poor leadership has meant that the ambitions and generosity of the British people are not being matched by a Government who seem to be more interested in chasing headlines than fulfilling practical tasks and duties.
The latest figures show that of the 74,000 visa applications under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, just 11,100 have arrived—and this is several weeks after the scheme went live. In these matters, I usually try to assume that such things are down to cock-up rather than conspiracy—especially when it comes to the Home Office under this Home Secretary—but will the Minister expand on claims by a whistleblower who was contracted by the Home Office that the Government are deliberately withholding visas for a single child in a wider family to prevent the whole family from arriving? I have been alerted to the case of a family who were told that their visas were ready, but when they went to collect them, the one for their three-year-old child was not there. There are many other deeply troubling cases of this nature. How on earth can this be happening? I sincerely hope it is not deliberate.
Members from all parties have been deeply frustrated by the speed at which the Home Office has responded on casework. For too many, the so-called hotline has gone stone cold. Yesterday, the queue for the MP queries desk in Portcullis House was more than three hours long. What is the Home Secretary doing to sort this mess out? Why is it that, even though she has taken caseworkers off the Afghan scheme—which has run to a standstill, with 12,000 Afghans stuck in hotels, at huge expense to the British taxpayer—she still cannot manage to organise a system that works for Ukraine? It is simply not good enough. I hope the Home Secretary and the Minister can provide answers. Our constituents deserve them, and so do those Ukrainians whose relatives are sacrificing their lives in the fight for freedom.